Innovative Alumni Events in Times of COVID-19

Virginia entered Phase Three of Governor Northam’s reopening plan earlier this month. Northam said he will be keeping a close eye on health metrics. If the numbers start to trend upward then state restrictions could be tightened again.

In his update on July 14, Northam reminded Virginians that they should continue to comply with the statewide face-covering requirement in indoor public spaces and that they are strongly encouraged to continue teleworking if possible, wash hands regularly, maintain six feet of physical distance when outside of their home, and get tested immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for people struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). The continuing uncertainty over the severity and duration of the pandemic is stressful and persistent stress is an important driver of substance misuse and a dangerous relapse trigger for people in recovery. Due to measures and recommendations by the authorities, they have to deal with isolation, a disrupted support network, and continued anxiety about getting a serious illness.

The pandemic makes supporting people in recovery more difficult but also more urgent. At Farley, we know that the discharge from rehab is only the beginning of the recovery journey. Many of our alumni continue to connect and support each other. Organized alumni events are an important element of this support network. Unfortunately, large alumni get-togethers are not possible at the moment so Farley Center has been trying hard to new and innovative ways to deliver on its ability to serve.

In May, we offered a virtual “ask-it basket” meeting in which participants could submit questions via email instead of putting them into an actual basket. Question meetings are a traditional element of 12-Step facilitation and a great way for people to learn more about long-term recovery. It was a great way for those newer in their recovery journey to hear from the experience who’ve been successful long-term.

Recovery Jeopardy in June was another fun way to connect. It was an online event but not just your run-of-the-mill Zoom meeting. Participants could show off their recovery knowledge by competing against fellow alumni for fun prizes. Also in June, we were able to bring back in-person aftercare and alumni meetings on campus—with strict safety protocols in place, of course. Participants were asked to arrive at least 15 minutes early and bring a mask covering nose and mouth. Arrivals were screened for symptoms including a temperature check. Once screened, they received a wristband showing they had been cleared.

The Farley Center Motorcycle Poker Ride was another fun way to keep connected in a safe way. The outdoor version of the classic card game began with a score sheet and route map at check-in. There were five checkpoints along the route around the York River. Players drew a card at each one and added it to their score sheet. As in a normal game of poker, the person with the best hand won the prize. This was a creative way to keep people distanced but connecting in-person.

The Farley Center knows the value of an active alumni community and our team is always trying to find new ways to keep our alumni connected. Despite the challenging circumstances, the Farley team continues to help people with substance use disorders. People in active addiction ready to go into recovery should not postpone treatment for their disease as we’ve served hundreds during this time with the practices and protocols successfully keeping those on campus safe.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse but you are unsure what addiction treatment services are available at the moment, please contact The Farley Center at 757.280.1309 to find out about your options.